TimeSplitters studio Free Radical have closed, according to social media messages from staff who have lost their jobs this week. Load up the Free Radical website, and you'll get the message: "404 Company Not Found :-(" I think it's safe to call this rumour confirmed, though we're still waiting for a formal announcement from parent Deep Silver or their overall owner Embracer Group.
"The last day at FRD was very different from what I imagined," senior tech artist Adam Kiraly wrote in a TwiX post. "I don't think it sunk in properly just yet, but handed my keys in and left the building the last time. It's Time to Split."
"It's been a great 2 and a quarter years at Free Radical Design, sad to see us go," observed Mark Normington, a senior artist. "Onwards and upwards!"
Normington had more to share in a LinkedIn post. "It sees myself and just over 80 people out of work at the worst time of year for it to happen," he wrote. "Best of luck to all my colleagues and I wish you all the very best in your future endeavours."
Originally founded in 1999 by former Rare staff including David Doak, Steve Ellis, Karl Hilton and Graeme Norgate, Free Radical shot to fame with the very first TimeSplitters, but fell on hard times after the cancellation of a Star Wars: Battlefront project and poor sales of the admittedly rather dismal Haze.
The company went bust in 2009 but were acquired by Crytek, who rebranded them as Crytek UK and put them to work on the Crysis series and Warface. Crytek UK closed in 2014, with the majority of staff transferring to Homefront: The Revolution and Dead Island 2 developer Dambusters, but Free Radical were refounded in 2021 to make a new TimeSplitters game under the Deep Silver label, with Ellis and Doak at the helm. "To finally be able to confirm that the studio has been formed and that we have a plan for the next TimeSplitters game is incredible," Ellis said at the time.
It's all been downhill since then, however. Having spent several years buying up studios and licenses, Embracer Group announced massive restructuring plans in June to address their debts. The Swedish conglomerate laid off over 900 people over the summer and autumn, closing Saints Row developer Volition in the process.
It's been rumoured that Free Radical would follow Volition since the start of November, but today's news is crushing all the same. Free Radical were and are a lovely bunch - I've interviewed a few of the people who are being laid off today, while they were employed at other studios - and TimeSplitters is a special series, a GoldenEye successor unconstrained by the Bond license and free to pick and choose weapons, props and scenarios from across the timeline. There's never been anything quite like it and I'm not sure there ever will be again.
"As the sun sets on my last day at Free Radical Design, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to collaborate both with industry legends and with emerging talents who will no doubt shape the future of the industry," Free Radical's quality assurance manager Kevin Ellis wrote on Linkedin today.
"Free Radical Design was a hub of creativity, but sadly, we join an ever-growing list of casualties in a broken industry where entire studios are treated as replaceable cogs in a soulless machine fixated on nothing but share prices," he continued.
"To all who lent their skills, dedication and creativity, you are the heartbeat of Free Radical Design. As we part ways, I'm confident your talents will persist in shaping gaming's trajectory. Let's carry forth the spirit of innovation, resilient against industry challenges, fueled by an unwavering passion for gaming. Here's to new beginnings and the everlasting legacy of Free Radical Design."
Best of luck to everybody at FRD.